foreseeing the prophet
The sky was split into even rows of grey and plasticine blue- the boy touched it; it was his sky. Sometimes he felt like it called his name, but he wasn't sure. "You are mine," he said to that little expanse of something beyond the dead, beyond the rot. Just beyond the resonating ruin of Lea Monde. "I know not where you are," said the boy. "But you are mine."
The first place the boy saw the difference in him was in his footsteps.
He saw the blotch that was his Nurse before she came. The dark smudge of her
presence marred the pristine symmetrical lines of the Duke's Manor. The boy let
his slim white legs carry him down the hill. His shaggy blonde hair brushed
against his ears as he ran, whispered secrets to him. Hsst.
"Young Master Bardorba!"
"Your father beckons!"
"I know," he said in response to the words that slip't from those dry, cracked white lips. "I saw."
She crossed herself.
"Well then tidy yourself up then." Around her wrists, thick clusters of rosary beads, like individual marbles of sin, clacked noisily. "And get your hair out of your face." Nurse's eyes shifted left. "'Tisn't proper."
His smile was mild, was obedient, was calm, perchance...smug. "Nay madam," he said, his small head lowered. "'Tisn't proper at all."
Unnerved, she turned around and slid forwards across the courtyard- the quasi glitter of a slug's trail.
He followed her across the granite tiles, tightroping on spiderweb cracks
that would never break his dead mother's back.
Spiderwebs forever lead to spiders, and these cracks were no exception, branching to rejoin at a tarantula of a tile: an eight pointed red star upon cold granite. His toes magnetized to the spot.
"Who goes there?"
Further ahead, the Nurse walked on, oblivious.
"Who speaks to me thus?"
Whispers. And secrets. And the wind in his ears.
Slowly, a smile crossed the boy's face. "Oh, it's just you again."
"Young Master Bardorba!"
The emptiness fractured. The boy started. "Yes?"
Nurse squinted suspiciously at him, rubbed the large overwrought cross in her hand to seek some further protection. "Hurry along, boy."
She did not ask who he had been talking to. They never asked.
"Nurse?" His eyes were cunning innocence, facet, refract.
Her words and movements slammed together nervously like miniature seizures. "Yes, what is it, pet?"
"What is the name of this woman?" He rested his small white hand reverently on the feet of the statue that stood regally beside him on a pedestal.
The Nurse set her plump jaw and crossed her good Christian self once, twice, three times. "It's not for young boys' ears."
"Please, Nurse," he insisted in a cool whisper. " I only want to know."
If one wanted to, one could say that the cracks in the floor expanded, or tremored in that moment.
The Nurse's round form wobbled. "That's the paganidolMullenkamp," she said quickly. "Don't dally in those cultist activities, they're a surefirepathtohell, away from the eyes of our LordFathertheProtector."
"Oh, aye?" A pointed stare, gentle and eerie. "Hell?" He sounded truly enraptured. Clasping his small hands together in front of him, he remained silent for a minute, or 10. Then, "Proceed, Nurse."
Still murmurring prayers beneath her breath, she walked on.
The boy lifted a foot to follow, and here the revelation began.
He watched his nurse's feet pass innocuously through the corridor, trudging uneventfully through the gray, ineffective as a ghost's.
But when this boy walked, the gray dispersed, terrified, and the shadows came pouring in from all sides, clinging like fingers to the soles of his feet. He could see them moving like small noiseless animals, creeping from corners and crannies to suck at his shoes in tendrils. The boy lifted one foot, and the shadows clung to it, viscous and black as a congealed sort of ink. He fell backwards in a silent panic. Awakened, his hair flew forwards before his face, flurried angrily. Hsst.
Branches of nothing split fault lines through his eyes. "Stop!"
The Dark disintegrated.
The boy lay on the hill and touched his palm to the sky. When he removed his
hand, he saw the black lines of the weeping willow snaking through the clouds
malevolently, and he closed his eyes, restraining an inner shaking. He touched
one pale hand to his lips, and pressed his fingertips back up to the taut canopy
above him. "I wonder," he said, with his eyes still shut, "If
they'll leave a mark."
In a thunder rumble, his eyes opened and saw something flash in the sky: a lightning bolt, or a bird, or perhaps a rood.
He rolled over and counted his numberless years on one hand. "3, 4, 12," he said.
He stood up.
His fingerprints, the ever-twining willows, remained ominously in the gray sky.
The boy walked down the hill, but a pale speck in the vast graylands landscape.
"12," he said.
"It is time."
Judgment is a table of old bearded noblemen.
Eyes, eyes, burning, dancing eyes. Lined with the veins of old age and accusation. The boy saw the eyes and thought: I hope my eyes never look like that.
His own, a sad, bleached gray, softly absorbed the heat of the room.
Sitting a bit apart from the rest, the Duke nodded solemnly in greeting. The rest quietly squirmed- howmuchdoeshesee,really?
"How fare you, my son?" said the old priest, stroking his grizzled
beard. His immoveable stare cut into the boy's flesh like a knife.
"I am well, Father Bernard, and you?"
"Never mind that," said the Cardinal from his seat and scarlet garments, wryly. "We're here to talk about you."
"Me?" The boy's slender chin lifted ingenuously. "All of you here-" He glanced about the room, at the many very-important sets of eyes. "For me?"
A man in armor that the boy did not recognize leaned over the table to hiss at him. "As if you didn't know all we venture to say."
"Now Cameron..." began the priest.
In the shadowed corners, the Duke raised a hand to halt his protests, let the conversation continue.
His son shot him a sudden look of a betrayed child's alarm.
"Who speaks to you?" barked the man in the armor. "Are they ghosts, or witches? Spirits? Faeries?"
"Do you regularly attend confession?" asked the priest with a smile that tried to mask the armored man's barking.
"Perhaps the boy simply requires an exorcism," said the Cardinal, looking bored.
The boy said nothing, sat obediently with his hands in his lap and would look at no one but his father.
"Who speaks to you thus?" shouted the man in the armor. "I ask
you, who is it?" His bellows shook the table, made the ancient bones of the
noblemen in the room rattle.
"Now Sir Cameron, is this really necessary?" posed the Cardinal halfheartedly in response to the noise.
The priest, blind to all, smiled sickly once again at the boy. "have you accepted the Lord as your personal Savior?"
The Duke did not look at his son.
The boy spoke. "No."
If one wanted to, one could say the walls of the room contracted, or tensed,
or breathed in that moment.
The old priest studied the boy. "Do you...Young man, do you know what you're saying?"
The boy only laughed. "Oh Father, do you truly think that I can be saved?"
The Duke closed his eyes and his eyelashes were black with nothingness.
There was a long and measured silence, broken only by old men's rasping breathing.
"Very well," said the Cardinal, tiredly. The collective fear of those rumors, those whispers of cults, of a new coming, of the destruction of the old way-- that fear gathered like a stone and weighed heavily on the stomach of every man. "The council has decided on a proposal." He pounded a mallet that seemed to appear out of nowhere. "We propose that this boy, young Sydney Bardorba, be hereby outcast. Any opposed?"
Not even a hsst in the soundlessness.
The armored man took over, spoke severely, "You have 7 hours to leave
the Manor and the graylands. You are to be stripped of your title and your
birthright. You are exiled from your home and are forbid from trying to reclaim
anything that may have been at one time your inheritance."
The priest and his repulsive eyes tried to be comforting but only succeeded in being disgusting. "I would go pack now, boy."
But the boy would talk to and look at none but the Duke, still.
There was no response.
"...Father?" And there was a bit more of a boy in his voice, a telltale wobble in the word.
The response came slowly. "No longer am I your Father. Git thee gone, you are no longer a Bardorba."
The Duke looked up, lips pressed together like a folded sheet of paper. "From this day forth, I have no son."
And with that, the boy walked out.
The boy stepped out onto the hill, and pointed at the sky, the glowing sky, the blue-streaked sky, the awful lying sky. "You are mine," he said. "I know not where you are, but I am coming."
And he carried no name, no savior; his back was yet bare and white. But the voices still hid in the crook of his neck and in the dust of his long lashes and the curve of his boy's chin and they spoke to him.
And he walked on, his footsteps trailing a thousand shadows behind him, black willow arms arching eternally through a pale gray sky.
So it began, the first story of the wanderer... the original vagrant.